Child custody is an extremely important issue that can have a significant impact on the well-being of a child or children. In Texas, child custody is referred to legally as “conservatorship.” While this term has received a lot of attention in high profile cases like that of Britney Spears, whose personal life and finances were largely controlled by her father for more than a decade, it is also commonly used in child custody cases in reference to who makes decisions on behalf of a child or children. 

 When navigating split custody of a child or children, many parents focus on visitation and child support. Their immediate concern is often what they will pay or receive in child support and how visitation will be determined. However, while visitation and child support are important, conservatorship plays an enormous role in the long-term health and well being of a child. Simply put, conservatorship is a court order that determines who can make important decisions for a child, such as decisions about education and healthcare.

If you live in the state of Texas, here are five things you should know about conservatorship. 

  1. Conservatorship is typically awarded to the parent or parents of a child, but in some cases, a guardian or a state agency is appointed as a conservator. This designation typically ends when the child turns 18 and is considered a legal adult. 
  2. Usually both parents are named joint managing conservators and work together to make decisions in the best interest of their child or children. However, some judges and courts rule that these decisions can be made independently of each other. For example, in some conservatorship orders, one parent is granted the exclusive right to decide where the child lives, while in others, neither parent has this exclusive right but the child’s residence is limited to a certain geographic area.
  3. A joint conservatorship typically means that both parents share the responsibility of making important decisions about their child’s future. This could include decisions about invasive medical treatment, psychological treatment, and education. A joint conservatorship does not mean that the child splits time equally between the parents. 
  4. In certain circumstances, one parent may be named the sole managing conservator and will not share the rights and responsibilities of parental decision making equally. This may be the case when there are negative or dangerous circumstances surrounding child custody, such as domestic violence. 
  5. Conservatorship can be changed under special circumstances, especially if you believe your child or children are in danger. Ideally, co-parents are able to work together to determine the best decisions for their children regarding issues like health care and education. However, it is sometimes necessary to speak with an attorney about options so that decision power is divided in a way that is agreeable to both parties. 

At Sandoval Law Firm we understand the stress of dealing with divorce, child custody and domestic violence. Our firm consists of founding attorney Raul Sandoval Jr. and a dedicated support staff. Mr. Sandoval earned his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law. Since that time, he has been practicing family law in the Austin area, as well as teaching seminars, classes and other forms of professional development.